Alex and David met while participating in the Purdue Society of Professional Engineers and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Rube Goldberg team, typically shortened to PSPE Rube Goldberg. Through the experience of participating on these teams they developed an interest in making these types of machines and since have had the opportunity to build professionally. Though they are now more focused on growing the machining side of the business, the chain reaction machines were fun and interesting projects reminiscent of their time with the PSPE Rube Goldberg team.

Ball Run Style Machine for Children’s Learning Playground

In addition to being entertaining, the designers felt it was necessary that the machine be easy to use given that it would be used by children. The designers wanted 3 points of interaction. One being a hand wheel that would power the elevators and bring the balls from the bottom to the top. The other two being levers that would interact with the balls as they moved down the tracks. The points of interaction had to be low enough force that a kid could use them and yet sturdy enough to withstand the kids’ teenage siblings who would put it through its paces. Overload mechanisms were built in to prevent damage from excess force by causing the the point of interaction to disengage, protecting the internal mechanisms.

Machines for ‘The Sponge Bob Musical’

We worked with David Zinn, Scenic Designer for ‘The Sponge Bob Musical’ , to design 2 chain reaction style machines to meet his vision of what they should look like and accomplish during the show. After panning out the details of the design we worked with Prop-N-Spoon at their New Jersey shop to fabricate and test the machines prior to the delivery and installation at the Oriental Theatre. We even got to go work in the theater for 4 days to get the machines working and see behind the scenes!

The objective of the house right machine is to launch a large ball (think exercise ball) onto stage. Notable features are the rotating basketball goal, musical teeter tooters, large accordion arm, and bike kicker. The bike kicker was an exciting module to build as the gears were made from wood and the use of counter balanced weights results in the bike oscillating about a point that looks off center.

The objective of the house left machine is to launch multiple smaller balls onto stage. The machine starts with a hard plastic ball that runs through sections of track. As the ball rolls through the track it activates a set of flags that pop up, hits a set of drums and cymbals that make the ba-dum-tss sound, drops into a helical spiral, and slams into the end of the track pushing out a flag. Once the hard ball has run through the track the launcher module is activated. A rotating wheel picks up what are basically dodge balls one at a time and drops them into a chute that rolls them into a ball shooter (think baseball pitching machine) which shoots them onto stage at the frightened citizens of Bikini Bottom.